August 29, 2016

This article, by Scott Jared, was posted originally on the UNC Global website

Charlotte Lane left her heart in West Africa, but she will return to begin her life’s work there after honing her knowledge and research skills at Carolina.

photo, Charlotte Lane, with villagers in Burkina Faso

Charlotte Lane (foreground, right), nutrition doctoral student at the Gillings School, sits with residents of the village in Burkina Faso where she served in the Peace Corps.

Lane, doctoral student in nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, is one of 24 incoming recipients of a five-year fellowship with the UNC Graduate School’s Royster Society of Fellows.

“After receiving my degree, I hope to go back to West Africa and work in the development community,” Lane said. “I love the people and the culture there. I want to spend my life working on locally relevant nutrition interventions that make sustainable and long-term differences to the community. At least, that’s the plan so far.”

Lane recently arrived in Chapel Hill after more than two years working as a Peace Corps community health volunteer. After graduating from Harvard University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in human evolutionary biology and a minor in global health and health policy, Lane wanted to study primates.

“I realized that I could not spend my life sitting behind a desk at a normal office job. I wanted to DO something,” Lane said.

Her father encouraged her to apply for the Peace Corps as a way to learn more about Africa.

What’s Happening There?

In Burkina Faso, Lane soon became consumed by a new interest. She saw many malnourished children, including her host family’s daughter. Lane said that the girl was often lethargic, not as active as a typical two-year-old. The family, relatively well-off compared to most villagers, also had a “beautiful, fat 6-year-old boy,” Lane said.

“What’s happening there?” she thought. “I wanted to learn everything I could about the situation – how it arose, what the consequences would be for my host sister and most importantly, how to prevent it.”

She finished her training and left her host family for the village of Guena, one hour west of Bobo-Dioulasso.

At Guena, she worked with the Food Security Task Force and focused on nutrition projects. She also cultivated a group of girls, ranging from teens to the infants in their care. Her work included establishing nutrition education programs, providing gardening lessons and the leading the Peace Corps’ “Let Girls Learn” initiative. The project in which she takes the most pride is a well dug through 17 meters of granite. It’s her favorite because people in her village solved problems, managed the work of the heavy machinery and made the well a success.

“The confidence and ownership achieved through this is my proudest accomplishment,” Lane said.

She also saw some political unrest, witnessed the country’s first democratic presidential election, and learned French and the trade language Djula.

When Lane decided to study nutrition, she researched graduate programs and found Linda Adair, PhD, professor of nutrition at the Gillings School and expert on international nutrition and nutritional epidemiology.

“I found Linda’s work and realized that it was what I needed to know in order to go back to West Africa and be productive,” Lane said. “The research conducted at UNC-Chapel Hill is fascinating and motivational. It addresses real problems in nutrition and health through a productive and concrete approach. I want to be a part of that.”

[Read more.]

The Royster Society is the UNC Graduate School’s select interdisciplinary fellowship program. It attracts exceptional graduate students from around the world, provides generous financial funding, offers unique opportunities to excel and creates innovative approaches to scholarship.

Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or

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